Ofelia Acevedo, wife of deceased Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya, said Monday that the Christian Liberation Movement, or MCL, that her husband led "will continue its peaceful struggle" on the island on behalf of Cubans' rights.

Acevedo, also a member of the MCL board, made that statement after her husband was killed in a traffic accident Sunday in Bayamo, a city some 750 kilometers (460 miles) east of Havana.

"We're going through a very sad time but the MCL will continue its peaceful struggle until all Cubans are granted the rights that are rightfully ours. That was the ideal my husband dedicated his life to until the day he died," Acevedo said.

Oswaldo Paya, founder and national coordinator of the MCL, and winner of the European Parliament's 2002 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, was an outstanding force among Cuba's internal opposition and notable for his long career of peaceful activism to bring democracy to the island.

Last rites for the dissident will be held this Monday at the parish church he normally attended in the popular Havana neighborhood of El Cerro where he lived, a family member told Efe.

The unexpected death of Paya, 60, has sparked dismay both on the part of dissidents and of international political and human-rights organizations.

Also killed in the accident that took Paya's life was Cuban citizen Harold Cepero, while the Spaniard Angel Carromero, a leader of the Madrid Popular Party's New Generations group, and Jens Aron Modig from Sweden were injured.

Another reaction expressed in the early hours Monday came from the editorial board of the Catholic magazine Espacio Laical, which praised Paya as "an honest person, an exemplary father, an upright Catholic, a good Cuban and one who understood how to preserve his independence."

Official media on the island, such as the Web site Cubadebate, the Communist Party daily Granma, and the AIN national news agency, all controlled by the state, published an odd note about the accident, which, according to the official story, occurred when the vehicle went out of control and hit a tree.

Several Cuban exile organizations in Miami, meanwhile, expressed their deep sorrow Monday at Paya's death and their suspicions that the traffic accident in which he lost his life was an "attack" orchestrated by the island's regime.

"I'm almost convinced that it was an attack by the Cuban govenment, because they (the victims) told Paya's daughter Rosa Maria by telephone that they were being hounded by a vehicle that was trying to knock them off the road," Ramon Saul Sanchez, president of the Democracy Movement, told Efe.

Angel Desfana, head of the Plantados exile group, called Paya's death a "great loss," describing him as a "tremendous fighter, an idealist and a decent person."

For Tomas Rodriguez of Agenda Cuba, Paya was a person of great human qualities.

"He was a guide and friend to members of the Christian Liberation Movement," Rodriguez said. EFE